An icon comes to Qatar: Face-to-face with Chef Alain Ducasse

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Ashlee

(Photo credit: IDAM at the Museum of Islamic Art)

Alain Ducasse is a culinary legend and acknowledged as one of the world’s greatest chefs. The multi-award-winning Michelin-starred chef has a global empire spanning hotels, restaurants, cookbook,s and culinary schools.

Born in Southwest France, Alain Ducasse was brought up on his parent’s farm where his passion for fresh, seasonal produce was formed. This passion is seen today through the selection of the finest ingredients and produce for IDAM, his spectacular restaurant based at the iconic Islamic Museum of Art here in Doha.

At the age of 61, Ducasse certainly shows no signs of slowing down. I recently had a chat with he and IDAM Executive Chef Damien Nicolas Leroux during Ducasse’s recent visit to Qatar to explore the crossroads of culture and cuisine.

ILQ: You have a massive global empire. Where do you get your energy?

AD: Energy is a decision. You can decide whether you have the energy or not.

ILQ: Tell me about the use of local produce for IDAM.

DNL: As much as we can, we try to source local ingredients. Spices from Souq Waqif, fish from the local market, fruit and vegetables from the wholesale market. But it’s not always easy to provide. I work with a local company to grow produce, and I also try to incorporate Middle Eastern flavours and ingredients into my recipes.

ILQ: What do you think of Qatar’s locally grown produce?

DNL: When I first arrived in Qatar I thought it would be difficult to find local produce – but now, I find new ingredients every day. When I worked in Paris it was very easy to find great produce. Here in Qatar it’s been a challenge to find specific ingredients, but this has made me become more creative and pushed me to cross the line to discover new concepts. I love to see new possibilities.

(The culinary team at IDAM. Photo credit: IDAM at the Museum of Islamic Art)

ILQ: What do you think of the food scene in the GCC?

AD: The most unique restaurants are here in the GCC. Every day there seems to be a new restaurant – a lot more than in Europe.

ILQ: What do you think of food trends?                       

AD: Food trends come and go so fast. I truly want to stay unique. I prefer to be the ‘haute couture’ of fashion and remain different. I want the restaurant to be accessible for everyone. My vision is not to see ‘trends’, but to remain faithful to my own food philosophy.

DNL: Fashion changes. Consistency is the key in the food world. We decide a level and we deliver that every day.

ILQ: How did you choose the location at the Museum of Islamic Art for IDAM?

AD: I love architecture, and there is a parallel between my food and the location.

ILQ: What is the inspiration behind the IDAM menu?

AD: I wanted to offer the finest ingredients possible. Wherever the location in the world, I will always take whatever local ingredients are available. There is no ‘globalization’ of the Alain Ducasse name. For instance, in Tokyo my guests are local and in Doha my guests are local. I have a global vision and a local expression. The concept is about localization and not globalization.

DNL: We work together closely and share ideas constantly for the menu.

(Photo credit: IDAM at the Museum of Islamic Art)

ILQ: How would you describe your IDAM menu?

AD: It’s French technique with a taste from the Middle East – including India and Lebanon. I personally check the flavours and ingredients that are used to create the IDAM menu. I have expectations that my chef will carry out my vision by using the freshest and finest local ingredients.

ILQ: Chef Ducasse do you cook at home?

AD: Yes, I cook whatever is growing in my garden. I keep it very simple. I have a five-year-old daughter and she is now learning to cook from me.

ILQ: What do you feel is your best achievement in life?

AD: To share my vision, knowledge, and philosophy to everyone in the world including my chefs.

ILQ: What advice would you give to new chefs?

AD: If you constantly do the same thing over and over again, you don’t have room to grow as a chef. I don’t like habits – I like to challenge habits because this is a way to learn and grow. When someone tells me ‘This is how I do it all the time’, I tell them ‘Now is the time to change’.

DNL: Alain likes to say ‘There are no good habits’. Learn from someone else, share with someone else. Cooking is all about sharing knowledge – nothing should be kept a secret.

 (Mama Baba Ganoush with Chef Alain Ducasse Photo credit: Darren Martinez)

About IDAM

Location: Museum of Islamic Art, 5th Floor, The Corniche, Doha

Timings: 12:30 p.m. till 3:00 p.m. (lunch, Wed-Sun)

                    7:00 p.m. till 10:00 p.m. (dinner, Wed-Sun)

Contact: (+974) 4422-4488

                 www.mia.org.qa

                 http://www.alain-ducasse.com/en/restaurant/idam

 Have you visited IDAM? What do you think are the most important elements of crafting a cuisine that is both local in vision and international to the palate? Drop us a line and let us know your thoughts in the comments below. Also – don’t forget to give us a like and a share – it keeps us going!